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Dublin: 1°C Friday 7 May 2021

The man in the middle: Here are our favourite referees of all time

We pay homage to the guys with the thankless job.

Pierluigi Collina

Credit: RENATO FERRINI/AP/Press Association Images

Regarded as the best referees of his generation,Italian Pieluigi Collini was both uncompromising and understanding to players. Famous for his bald head and piercing, Bologna-born Collina worked his way up to Serie A and officiated during Manchester United’s dramatic Champions League win in 1999 as well as the World Cup final three years later before retiring in 2005.

Mills Lane

"Doesn't look too bad from here." Credit: MARK J. TERRILL/AP/Press Association Images

The man remembered best for disqualifying Mike Tyson after he took a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear during their rematch was in fact a late stand-up. Mitch Halpern, who referee their first fight, had been appointed again but stood down when Tyson's campaign express their unhappiness. Lane went on to become the star of two television shows - MTV's 'Celebrity Deathmatch' (where his catchphrase was "I want a good clean fight. Let's get it on!" and a real life court show imaginatively called 'Judge Mills Lane'.

YouTube credit: MrTherod13

Alan Mills

Credit: Tom Hevezi/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Nicknamed 'Rain Man' because he had the power to order the covers to be put over Wimbledon's courts during his 23 years as tournament referee had many a disagreement with the firy John McEnroe.

When I saw his name on the order of play I was always aware something might happen and sometimes you would just know it would happen depending on who he was playing," Mills once told the Liverpool Echo.

David Elleray

Credit: Phil Noble/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Unlikely to be the only ref to get into it because he was "crap" at playing, Elleray had an eventful career in the Premier League which included sending Roy Keane off for that horror tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001. It was the fourth time he had given the United captain his marching orders.

Dickie Murphy

Credit: INPHO/Patrick Bolger

For Wexford native Dickie Murphy, it was all about man management and for that reason he did everything with a smile on his face during his 20 years as a talented hurling referee, which ended in 2011.

Wayne Barnes

The Englishman may not be everyone's cup of tea but he earned our respect by getting back up after taking a ball to the head recently.

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Earl Hebner


The childhood memories come flooding back when he hear the name 'Earl Hebner', who would regularly take bad beatings during his days in the WWF ring. Yes, we know it's not real.

Anders Frisk

Credit: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

A fine referee, the Swede'career in professional football was cut short in 2005 after sending Didier Drogba off against Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 tie. Receiving death threats in the aftermath of the game, he decided to pack it in for the safety of his family.

Ed Hochuli

Credit: Chuck Burton/AP/Press Association Images

Just look at his guns!

Jason Byrne

"Wait a minute, these are fake arms!" Credit: YouTube screengrab

We're always looking to shoe-horn a Father Ted reference in so have to give comedian Jason Byrne's appearance as the man in black during the brilliant over-75s five-a-side episode.

Peter McDermott

Known as "the man with the cap",  the late Peter McDermott is the only footballer to play in All-Ireland finals either side of  refereeing. The former Meath star featured at corner forward in '51, '52 and '54 while he was in charge in '53 when Kerry and Armagh met.

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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